Officials with the Elkhart County Community Foundation say the organization has landed one of the largest gifts in its 25-year history. The estate of Mary Elizabeth Walker has made a $4.6 million donation. Walker was a community leader who died in 2011. March 12, 2014

News Release

ELKHART – Pete McCown, president of the Elkhart County Community Foundation, has announced the Foundation is the beneficiary of a generous gift from the estate of Mary Elizabeth Walker. The gift, in the amount of $4.6 million, is one of the largest ECCF has received in its 25 year history.

“We are humbled by this bequest because it comes from a woman noted for her generosity to a number of worthwhile causes — DePauw University, her alma mater; organizations like Lifeline that help youth; and her church, Trinity United Methodist here in Elkhart,” McCown noted.

Walker died December 19, 2011. She is survived by two daughters, a son and five grandchildren. Her husband Max, owner of the former Walker Automatic Heating, died in 1990.

“My mother, a child of the depression, was a very independent woman,” according to one of her daughters. Walker was involved in a number of civic organizations throughout her life, frequently in the position of president. Groups like United Methodist Women, the Four Arts Club and the YWCA Board of Elkhart. She was active in the building committees for the YMCA/YWCA and Trinity UMC, as well as helping start Meals on Wheels in Elkhart County. “In a different era,” her daughter added, “she would have been the CEO of a large corporation.”

Originally from West Virginia, Walker was born in a former stagecoach inn built in the early 19th century. Years later she authored a book, The Old Stone House: Travelers' Rest, a semi-autobiography of her birthplace and of its historic restoration in which she played a significant role.

Walker had an innate respect for history, beauty and the natural world. She had studied botany and English at DePauw and helped develop a tomato variety for the Burpee Corporation. She designed, funded and planned DePauw's Walker Arboretum. She was instrumental in the building and landscape design of the Goshen College Music Center. Additionally, she and her husband Max donated the land and were responsible for the design and landscaping of Walker Park northeast of Elkhart.

When asked why Walker selected the Community Foundation as the beneficiary of her generous gift, her daughter mentioned that her parents were inspired by the parents of Laura Turner Rydson and by Arthur J. Decio, two of ECCF's founding directors. They also knew and respected ECCF's original president Bill Myers. “They trusted that he would make wise decisions regarding how a future gift would be dispensed. And she believed that they owed it to the community… to ensure that its good works would carry on.”

The Elkhart County Community Foundation was established in 1989 to inspire people to make charitable gifts that improve the quality of life in Elkhart County. As a public, tax-exempt, philanthropic organization, ECCF solicits and develops endowment funds and distributes income from them, via quarterly grants, to not-for-profit organizations throughout the County.

For more information on philanthropic opportunities available through the Community Foundation, go to or call Jodi Spataro, Chief Advancement Officer, at 574.295.8761. Source: Elkhart Community Foundation

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